The Medicine Buddha
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Medicine Buddha is one
of many buddhas who have attained the state of
Medicine Buddha's blue
sky-colored holy body signifies omniscient
The historical Shakyamuni Buddha provided teachings on healing and systems of medicine which were collected into four volumes called "The Four Medicine Tantras". These teachings became the basis for the system of medicine practiced in Tibet and other Buddhist lands. They are characterized by a belief that all disease is essentially rooted in a psychosomatic cause, namely, spiritual confusion. His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches that although there is no beginning point of the root confusions, there can be an end to them through enlightenment. The many confusions may be traced to three main poisons, or wrong attitudes, of greed (grasping), hatred (fear), and ignorance (mistaken beliefs). Until the mistaken attitudes are released, all other cures are at best, only temporary. His Holiness also teaches that, unlike ignorance, wisdom does have a beginning, but no end! Once we do cleanse our beliefs, we reach a luminous enlightened mind, free of stain, which remains eternally so.
In the Medicine Tantras, Shakyamuni describes Medicine Buddha as an enlightened being who has special powers of healing. The special healing blessings of Medicine Buddha may be obtained by reciting his name or mantra. For centuries, Buddhists have been reciting this mantra prayer, to bring an ultimate healing of spiritual disease, as well as cures for everyday problems of the body and mind.
Land of Medicine Buddha has been dedicated by Lama Zopa Rinpoche (our Spiritual Director) as a place of healing, where the blessings of the Medicine Buddha may be experienced, especially by awakening and nurturing our good heart. The Medicine Buddha's name "Lord of Medicine Radiating Lapis Lazuli Light" in Sanskrit is "Bhagavan Bhaishajyaguru Vaiduryaprabha".
Buddha's short mantra:
The most distinctive feature of this Medicine Buddha is his color, the deep blue of lapis lazuli. This precious stone has been greatly prized by Asian and European cultures for more than six thousand years and, until relatively recently, its ornamental value was on a par with, or even exceeded, that of the diamond. An aura of mystery surrounds this gemstone, perhaps because of its principal mines are located in the remote Badakshan region of northeast Afghanistan, an all-but-inaccessible area located behind the Hindu Kush. One commentator has written, "the finest specimens of lapis, intensely blue with speckled waves and swirls of shining gold-colored pyrite, resemble the night aglow with myriads of stars." Traditionally this beautiful stone was used to symbolize that which is pure or rare. It is said to have a curative or strengthening effect on those who wear it, and its natural smoothness allows it to be polished to a high degree of reflectivity. For all these reasons ‚ plus the fact that deep blue light has a demonstrable healing effect on those who use it in visualization practices ‚ lapis is the color of the principal Medicine Buddha.
The Lapis Healing Master is one of the most honored figures in the Buddhist pantheon. The sutras in which he appears compare his eastern pure land with the western paradise of Amitabha, and rebirth there is said to be as conducive to enlightenment as is rebirth in Sukhavati. Recitation of his mantra, or even the mere repetition of his holy name, is said to be sufficient to grant release from the lower realms, protection from worldly dangers and freedom from untimely death. In one of the main sutras concerning the Medicine Buddha, Shakyamuni tells his close disciple and attendant Ananda:
If these sentient beings [those plunged into the depths of samsara's sufferings hear the name of the Lord Master of Healing, the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathagatha, and with utmost sincerity accept it and hold onto it, and no doubts arise, then they will not fall into a woesome path.
In Tibet the Medicine Buddha is revered as the source of the healing arts for it is through him that the teachings embodied in the Four Medical Tantras, the basis of Tibetan medicine, came into being. As explained in the first of these Four Tantras, the Lapis Lazuli Healing Master was once seated in meditation surrounded by an assembly of four circles of disciples including divine physicians, great sages, non-Buddhist gods and bodhisattvas, all of whom wished to learn the art of healing. Rendered speechless by the radiant glory of his countenance, they were unable to request the desired teachings. To accommodate their unspoken wishes, the Medicine Buddha manifested two emanations, one to request the teachings and the other to deliver them. In this way, then, the Buddhist explanation of the various mental and physical ailments, their causes, diagnoses and treatment and the maintenance of health is said to have originated.
According to the Four Tantras, the fundamental cause of every disease is to be found in the three poisonous delusions; ignorant bewilderment, attachment and hatred‚ occupying the hub of the wheel of samsaric existence. These three root delusions lead to imbalances in three so-called humors (phlegm, wind and bile), the various bodily constituents (blood, flesh, bone, etc.) and waste products, or impurities, all of which are analyzed in twenty-five divisions. The Root Tantra says:
Thus if all these twenty-five are in balance and the three factors of the (1) tastes and (2) inherent qualities of one's food and (3) one's behavior are wholesome, one's health and life will flourish. If they are not, one's health and life will be harmed.
And further on:
Attachment, hatred and bewilderment are the three causes producing imbalances of wind, bile and phlegm. Along with these, the four contributing circumstances of time, spirits, food and behavior cause the humors to increase and decrease. The imbalance then spreads over the skin, increases in the flesh, moves along the vessels, meets the bones and descends upon the solid and hollow organs.
Treatment of disease and the maintenance of health are therefore primarily a matter of bringing the various elements of the body back into balance and this is accomplished through four progressive types of treatment. The first two involve changes in the type of food we eat and behavior we engage in. Only when these prove ineffective is the physician advised to prescribe medicine and only when this also fails is he or she to resort to external forms of treatment such as cauterization and the like. However, none of these types of treatment will have a lasting effect unless they are accompanied by spiritual transformation. If ignorance and its associated delusions remain festering inside, sooner or later they will give rise to disease and the recurring miseries of cyclic existence. Thus Buddhas such as Shakyamuni and the Lapis Healing Master are referred to as great physicians not because of their medical abilities - as great as these are - but because they have the compassion, wisdom and skillful means to diagnose and treat the root delusions underlying all mental and physical malaise.
Edited and condensed from a talk during
Medicine Buddha Puja
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, LMB, 28 July 2001
the Bhagawan with equal compassion for all
The Fifth Dalai Lama
explains that the first verse expresses what Medicine Buddha is and talks
about the qualities. Bhagawan means "Destroyer Qualified Gone Beyond
One" or Chom Den De in Tibetan. "Destroyer" means not only
destroyer of one's own gross and subtle defilements, the delusions, but
also destroyer of other sentient beings' delusions and defilements.
"Qualified" refers to six qualities. "Gone Beyond"
means gone beyond the oceans of samsaric suffering. "With equal
compassion for all" means Medicine Buddha's compassion is equal
towards all sentient beings, there are no discriminating thoughts. Buddha
doesn't just help those who have faith in him. Medicine Buddha has
compassion to every single living being, equally-and that includes us.
Then, "Whose name when just heard dispels lower realms'
Any living being who
hears the name of Medicine Buddha never gets reborn in the lower
realms-that's the benefit, the power of just hearing the name, the mantra.
Buddha asked his attendant Ananda: "Do you believe this?" and
Ananda replied, "Yes I believe what the Buddha says." Then
Buddha said "Why?" Ananda replied, "Because Buddha has
inconceivable qualities, therefore I have no doubt." Then Buddha
said, "Even animals who hear Medicine Buddha's name from that time on
will never be reborn in the lower realms." This is such an easy way
to save living beings from heavy suffering. There's no question about
animals having faith in Medicine Buddha's power-so how can there be any
doubt that human beings who hear Medicine Buddha's mantra will never again
be reborn in the lower realms, whether they have faith or not? Just
hearing the name is enough, so when people are dying one of the best
things to do is to recite the name loudly in the ear, then you save the
person from the suffering of the lower realms for many aeons. The reason
there is so much power is due to Medicine Buddha's compassion. In the past
when he was a bodhisattva he made so many prayers and dedications with
strong compassion for his name to be wish fulfilling, to bring happiness.
When he became
enlightened, one of the ten powers of a Buddha is the power of prayer -
that means that all the prayers that have been made get fulfilled. So it
is extremely important in our daily life to practice Medicine Buddha and
to chant his name for the animals. It's an unbelievably easy way to
liberate yourself and to help others too.
If you eat meat, recite
the mantra of Medicine Buddha and blow over the meat. This way the
animal's negative karma gets purified. No matter how far away the
consciousness is it receives the effect and helps the animal to a higher
rebirth. Also, if you find insects in the house, by reciting the mantra
and blowing on them it purifies their negative karmas and helps them to
have a good rebirth. That fulfils the purpose of them coming into your
house, into your room. It makes their life meaningful and since you are
able to benefit them it makes your life meaningful also.
Some years ago I did
retreat in Big Sur in America, in a cabin near the water. Many ants used
to come into the kitchen. So I sent three tsa-tsas (images of Buddha) to
the cooks and told them each time they found ants or insects in the house
to put them in a plastic bag - don't seal it - or container, then hold the
tsa-tsa in one hand and with the other hand circumambulate the bag
clockwise at the same level as the tsa-tsa. With each circumambulation all
the ants create the cause for enlightenment, and by the way the cause for
liberation from samsara and by the way the cause for all the happiness of
future lives for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes. This is such an easy
way to help them, to liberate them. Since that time whenever we see
insects in the house we try to take them around holy objects a few times.
By coming into the house they make us do the best practice - helping
others. They make our lives meaningful and we make their lives meaningful.
We help each other.
Medicine Buddha practice
also purifies any broken vows, like Pratimoksha vows, or precepts. It is
very powerful for purification and for healing sickness. Normally people
think that Medicine Buddha is for healing but it's not only that, it's
also very powerful for purifying negative karma and very powerful for
success. When I was in Germany I read the Medicine Buddha Sutra and
actually the Medicine Buddha practice is so precious. It seems that you
can do Medicine Buddha Puja for ANY purpose, ANY problem, ANYTHING. You
can use the Medicine Buddha practice for any kind of problem, for court
cases, to stop wars, to stop violence, anything. It is very good for
business, for mothers who are pregnant to give birth successfully,
The practice can be done
for anything. It is very powerful for success and of course the most
important success is to have the realizations of the Lam Rim, the path to
enlightenment: to realize emptiness, develop wisdom, bodhicitta and guru
devotion - to be able to give extensive benefit to other sentient beings.
Many of the Dharma kings
in Tibet who did great benefit to preserve and spread the Dharma practiced
Medicine Buddha on every 8th day of the Tibetan month (that's the same as
Tara day) and also on the fifteen special days of the Buddha performing
miracles (the first fifteen days of the first Tibetan month). Recently I
read a detailed explanation by the Fifth Dalai Lama on the Medicine Buddha
practice, both sutra and tantra, and the biographies of the lineage lamas.
Each one was able to give so much benefit to sentient beings and the
teachings of Buddha and had great realizations by doing Medicine Buddha
For example, Lha Lama
Yeshe Oe, the Dharma king who invited Lama Atisha to Tibet did Medicine
Buddha practice as a main deity and was able to establish many monasteries
with extensive listening, reflection and meditation practice. He
sacrificed his life to spread pure Dharma in Tibet by inviting Lama Atisha.
When he went to look for gold as an offering, he was captured and put in
prison near Nepal where he passed away. When they offered fire to his holy
body rainbow lights were emitted and there were rainfalls of flowers for
seven days. Then a Medicine Buddha, the size of a thumb, appeared from his
heart and went to Pure Land. The sky was filled with the sound of music
and there were so many wonderful signs. All the lineage lamas of Medicine
Buddha did Puja on the 8th of every month, had incredible realizations and
when they passed away there were wonderful signs like this king Lha Lama
disease and the three poisons" - the three poisons are ignorance,
hatred and attachment, the sicknesses of the mind from which come the
physical sicknesses-cancer, depression, etc.
"I prostrate to
Medicine Buddha Lapis Light."
Medicine Buddha's mantra
is: tayatha om bekandze bekandze maha bekandze radza samudgate soha.
Tayatha - means
"like this". Om - is composed of the three pure sounds A U and
MA, which signifies one's own body, speech and mind that get transformed
into the vajra holy body, speech and mind. Then bekandze bekandze
-"eliminating pain, eliminating pain". What eliminates pain is
medicine. This pain is not ordinary pain - even animals do not want to
experience that. The first eliminating pain is true suffering, the second
is the true cause of suffering. The medicine that eliminates pain is first
the graduated path of the lower capable being, and second the graduated
path of the middle capable being. Then maha bekandze -"the great
eliminating pain" is the graduated path of the higher capable being,
which eliminates the subtle defilements. So bekandze bekandze maha
bekandze contains the whole path to enlightenment, the ultimate medicine.
Radza - is king. Samudgate. Soha - to establish the foundation in the
heart, the blessing, the devotion from which the realization comes.
By actualising the meaning of the path contained in bekandze bekandze maha bekandze, the whole Lam Rim, you cease the defilements, gross and subtle, and purify the ordinary body, speech and mind into the vajra holy body, speech and mind. After this you are able to do perfect works for other sentient beings.
following is advice that Lama Zopa Rinpoche originally composed for Land
of Medicine Buddha, but Rinpoche would also like as many centers as
possible to do these pujas and offerings.
is very important that the elaborate Medicine Buddha puja with extensive
offerings be done regularly. The offering should be as extensive and as
beautiful as possible, and done in order to benefit all FPMT.
Buddha puja is also something that can be done for people who are dying or
who have already passed away, and also for individual success in all kind
of activities. This Medicine Buddha practice is extremely powerful and
beneficial especially when it is done with extensive offerings beautifully
always the case that there are many students that have no time or very
little time to do practice, always too busy. Such people can be encouraged
to make regular offerings from their wages for the Medicine Buddha puja,
i.e. towards the extensive offerings. In this way they are able to create
merit, and as they know it is happening regularly, from their home they
can mentally make the offerings to the Guru Triple Gems. Even they can do
the mental offerings in their car or the office. This is a very good way
to help the center to develop and also help the individual's Dharma
wealthy Tibetan families would have a monk or a nun doing this in their
home and taking care of a beautiful altar, and making beautiful offerings
as the family had no time. They would offer at least one hundred
waterbowls etc. The offerings can be beautiful and extensive, include
flowers, etc. This is also very good if it can happen at many of our
centers, where someone who has the time and energy can do puja and the
offerings for those who have no time and energy, and they in turn can be
supported in doing this.
It would be excellent if the extensive Medicine Buddha could be done every week, at least once a month. If sometimes the extensive one is too long, the short Wisdom booklet one can be done. Of course other people can come to the puja, as many people as possible. There is a Medicine Buddha sutra, which can be recited. It is unbelievable inspiring to read. It explains the benefits of the Medicine Buddha practice. If that was available, that could be read occasionally.
Medicine Buddha Renowned Glorious King of Excellent Signs (Supari Kirti
Tanama Sri Raja)
Of glorious renown; of glorious features; gold in colour, in the mudra of
Medicine Buddha King of Melodious Sound, Brilliant Radiance of Skill,
Adorned with Jewels, Moon and Lotus (Sva Ragosa Raja)
Master of melodious sound; yellow in colour, in the mudra of granting the
For the benefit of those whose love of business and commerce has led them
to distraction, away from the Bodhi mind
3) Medicine Buddha Stainless Excellent Gold, Great Jewel Who
Accomplishes All Vows (Suvarna Bhadra Vimala)
the best and purest of gold; of the colour of the golden waters of the
Jambu; in the mudra of teaching Dharma
4) Medicine Buddha Supreme Glory Free from Sorrow (Asokot
Tamas Sri Raja)
Of the glory that is freedom from pain. Pale red in colour; in the mudra
of meditative equipoise
5) Medicine Buddha Melodious Ocean of Proclaimed Dharma (Dharma Kirti
Proclaimer of Dharma, ocean of melodious sound. Pink in colour; in the
mudra of teaching Dharma
6) Medicine Buddha Delightful King of Clear Knowing, Supreme Wisdom of
an Ocean of Dharma (Abkijya Raja)
Supreme in knowledge; of the colour of coral; in the mudra of granting
7) Medicine Buddha Guru King of Lapis Light (Bhaisjya Guru)
The light of Lapiz the guru of medicine. Blue in colour, in the mudra of
granting the supreme
To be adorned by the 112 signs and marks of an enlightened being
8) Shakyamuni Buddha
The mighty prince of the Sakya clan: of the colour gold; in the mudra of
pressing the earth who gave the Medicine Buddha mantra and promised that
those who supplicated the seven tathagata Medicine Buddhas and recited the
mantra 8’000 times would be freed from all obscurations formed by past
deeds, would not be struck down by illness, would enjoy a long life with
no untimely death, free from the harms of death, enemies, arguments,
fighting and separation; and would not fall into the hands of oppressors
and that all wishes would come true
Extracted and translated from the middle length sadhana, by Gavin Kilty,